In what may be the most intriguing “radio station” launch in quite some time, Apple debuted its “Beats 1” global channel at 12:00pm eastern today.
11:30am Just finished updating my iPhone to iOS 8.4 and launched the Beats 1 stream. Stunting with Brian Eno’s “Ambient 1 – Music For Airports”.
12:01pm Zane Lowe introduces the station with Manchester’s Spring King “City” as the first song.
12:04 Just ran a Beats 1 sweeper in the middle of the song. Error or watermarking?
12:05 Next up is Beck’s “Dreams”. Two Alternative Rock songs in a row. Will that quickly turn off non-Alt fans?
12:06 Another sweeper in the middle of the song. And Lowe singing along through the first song at the end as well. The style may be familiar to Hip-Hop listeners in U.S., but not of other formats.
12:09 Jamie XX “Gosh” next up. A UK Producer/Remixer.
12:14 Lowe backsells the first three songs and welcomes the “early adopters and those hungry for new music”. Prerecorded promo from Julie Adenuga for her show later today and first mention of Beats1Radio.com on Tumblr. We have our first Hip-Hop song with Skepta’s “Shutdown”.
12:22 Sounds like Lowe accidentally started the same song again before reversing course with a long talk break, Lowe mentions the promoted Eminem interview will air tomorrow and the same topics looping. That leads into AC/DC’s “For Those About To Rock” promoted as being available on streaming for the first time.
12:34 Electronica producer Hudson Mohawke’s “Warriors” next song leading into the hourly play of the “World Record” premiere of Pharrell’s “Freedom”. The World Record is promoted as the most important song of the day that will air hourly at bottom of the hour.
12:35 Pressing the three dots at the bottom of the screen gives options to purchase songs if available on iTunes, start a custom stream based on it, share it, or add it to your Apple Music collection.
12:37 As the first world premiere on the station, Lowe plays Freedom again.
12:40 Direct link to stream Beats1 on desktops is https://itunes.apple.com/beats1 Requires you update to iTunes 12.2 first.
12:41 Next song is Courtney Barnett’s “Dead Fox”. Sounds like it’ll be a huge AAA hit.
12:44 Promo for first artist hosted specialty show to air today is “St. Francis’ Mixtape Delivery Service” to air at 10pm tonight. Leads into Chemical Brothers featuring St. Vincent “Under Neon Lights”.
12:53 A “Breaking New Music” sweeper leads into Shamir’s “On The Regular” and then Bully “Trying”.
12:55 Lowe welcomes those who have just finished downloading Apple Music and intro’s Gallant “Weight In Gold” as a “World First”.
12:57 Looking at today’s schedule, the three announced hosts will each host a two hour block with Julie Adenuga from 3-5pm and Ebro Darden from 6-8pm. 2-3pm is listed as Beats 1 NYC and 5-6pm/11pm-12am as Beats 1 LA as whatever programming will originate in those cities. 8-10pm is listed as “Request with Travis Mills”. The three primary hosts will have their shows repeat daily with Zane Lowe at 12pm and 12am, Adenuga 3pm and 3am, and Ebro 6pm and 6am. Looks like Apple has taken someone else from US terrestrial radio as KGGI Riverside weekender Brooke Reese is listed in 2-3am slot tonight.
1:00 Chet Faker’s “Bend” ends the first hour. One major thing missing from the app is a recently played list of songs. No way for someone to mark songs they might’ve liked but didn’t have the ability to mark on the app while doing something else.
Final Thoughts: For an American listener Beats 1’s first hour sounded rather alien. Zane Lowe’s sound is very much like it was in the UK with high energy and an Alternative leaning playlist. Emphasizing gold songs from AC/DC and Dr. Dre that are not available on Pandora or Spotify is a nice touch. But outside of stations like KCRW Los Angeles there are only a handful of stations focusing on breaking and curating new music. Is a station made up of block programming and a common mission enough to be a mainstream draw? It would never work on terrestrial AM/FM in most markets, but the star power of Beats 1 and the marketing prowess of Apple may just be enough to make this a radio station that millennials are proud to confess they listen to.
We will have audio of the launch on FormatChange.com later today.